The guardians of one of the country’s most outstanding landscapes have been told they must review their ambitions after a £425,000 black hole in their future plans emerged.
Members of the North York Moors National Park Authority were told they would either need to cut back on projects, earn more income, successfully campaign for more Government funding or make savings in order to balance the budget over the next three years.
The meeting heard while the authority had attracted large amounts of grants from external bodies to bolster its Government funding, it now faced “a crunch point” over its resources to deliver all the schemes in its business plan.
A key issue includes how much externally-funded work, income generating work and volunteering could be managed, given that authority’s staff would be needed to help run those projects at the same time as maintaining the authority’s statutory functions.
Authority officers said its budget setting exercise would also need to consider how priority projects could be run “without impacting unduly on quality of delivery and staff welfare”.
Officers said large-scale projects such as environmental work in the Rye valley and improvements to Sutton Bank Visitor Centre would need careful consideration. In addition, the authority faces pressures as the 1.72 per cent increase in Government funding was lower than pay and price rises and several sources of income were not expected to grow.
Officers warned there was an expectation that the ability to generate additional income next year would be modest and there was little scope for staffing savings following austerity cuts, but income generation must continue to be a key priority of the authority.
Member Jeremy Walker, a former chief executive of North Yorkshire County Council, said while the authority had been successful in not having its ambitions curtailed by the extent of Government funding, a rethink of its objectives was now needed.
He said as expenditure was running ahead of income and there were “obvious worries about our ability to manage more income growth” the authority needed to think about “whether we have got our ambition right and what we are trying to achieve”.
Andrew Scott, a former National Railway Museum director, said the authority still needed to be on the front foot to take advantage of emerging Government economic development programmes.
He said: “We are moving into over the next two or three years into some very uncertain times, probably the most uncertain political period that any of us can remember. I think we should have an army for external funding opportunities.”